When you’re first learning a language, you struggle for a long time just to get words out there. So much time is spent on learning new words and practicing recalling them when you need them that making a fuss about the final result largely seems like a luxury. Sure, you’ll say the wrong thing sometimes and then do a quick verbal switcheroo, but it takes a while to get to the point where you wish to unsay whole sentences you once worked so hard to construct. And not because they’re incorrect but rather because you wish to strike what you’ve just said from the record. How do you do a real life control-Z in Spanish? How do you eat your words in Spanish? It’s really simple.
Retiro lo dicho.
I take it back. This is a very useful phrase that you can interject into your conversations, both formal and informal. Retirar can mean many things, but it doesn’t usually mean to retire; it means to withdraw or take back, to take away or remove, to pull back or draw back. I remember first learning it in restaurants when waitresses would ask permission to clear plates and silverware after I was done eating. ¿Puedo retirar? they’d ask. Or they’d say, ¿Le retiro? It took me a while to catch on. When I learned retirar lo dicho down the road, I had an aha moment. Oh, so just like the waitress takes back the restaurant’s plates, you take back what was said. I can visualize the same motion in both: she sticks out her arm and pulls the plates back in to her; you stick out your hand and try to cram your inopportune words back into your mouth. Lo dicho means that which is/was said.
Retiro lo dicho en unas entradas atrás sobre el vegetarianismo. Hoy conocí a un vegetariano que me convenció de que no es una locura como yo lo creía.
I take back what I said a few posts back about vegetarianism. Today I met a vegetarian who convinced me that it’s not as crazy as I used to think it was.
¿Así que no es que ella sea irresponsable sino que anda muy ocupada? Bueno, bueno, retiro lo dicho entonces.
So, she’s not irresponsible, just really busy? Fine, fine, I take it back then.
And if you want to tell someone to take it back, just make it a command.
¡Retira lo dicho! ¡Retira lo dicho ahora mismo o te vas a pata a la casa!
Take it back! Take it back right now or you can just get out and walk home!
So, what am I taking back? Oh, goodness. What don’t I take back? I’d like to take back so many things I’ve said in my life–so many things said, written, blogged, etc. As well as things unsaid. But what inspired this post is a retraction of words that isn’t very dramatic. I’ll blog about it in my next post.